Eat healthy for the holidays, but don’t deprive yourself

  • Jicama slaw on a tortilla. Photo by Vegan Feast Catering—

For the Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/9/2021 11:24:22 AM
Modified: 12/9/2021 11:23:55 AM

With the holiday season upon us, it can be a tricky time of year if you are working to follow a more nutritious diet, or trying to work on your inflammation, or following a special eating plan. But with the right mindset and some great planning it could be easier than you think!

Five tips for eating healthy over the holidays

1.  Focus on the positive. Instead of lamenting over what you can’t eat, be creative with what you can. For most of us, fruits and vegetable can be our friend especially at this time of year. Before you think this is a boring tip, think about ways that you can take food preparation to the next level. For example, create a home-made delicious dressing or dip for your crudité, try some different veggies such as endive, jicama or endive sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, or make a luscious dessert made primarily from fruit with a reduction in the sugar called for in the recipe. For some great ideas you can check out my book “Cool the Fire: Curb Inflammation and Balance Hormones,” which is chock full of over 150 recipes to keep you on track and available at Toadstool Books and European Esthetics.

2.  Keep some balance in your holidays with the 80/20 rule. This means to fill up on nutrient-dense foods 80% of the time while allowing yourself the opportunity to splurge on your favorite holiday foods about 20% of the time. First, nutrient rich foods such as high fiber carbohydrates, lean protein, produce, and healthy fats will help with cravings. This makes it easier to make better choices. Just as important is the fact the holidays are a time when we enjoy certain traditions and treats. Depriving yourself of everything is likely to backfire.

3.  Eat breakfast. A healthy breakfast sets the tone for the day. If you start the day with refined carbs and high sugar foods such as ready to eat cereal, toast, jam and orange juice or even worse, leftover pie or a donut, you will set yourself up for sugar cravings all day long. A great way to start the day is with protein, fiber, and healthy fat. A protein smoothie (see my website for some good recipes, is a great way to go or try an egg omelet made with some sautéed onions and spinach with some fresh fruit. This will give you the stamina that you need to stare down those snickerdoodles at mid-morning.

In fact, eating a diet with plenty of fiber, protein and healthy fat is a great way to keep your appetite in check year-round.

4.  Stay hydrated. About 75% of us walk around in a state of mild hydration all the time. Drink half your body weight in water. Thirst can often by mistaken for hunger. Not only will consistent water help you eat less, it will also help you feel more energetic. If you are a 150-pound female, this means drink about 75 ounces of water every single day. You may find it helpful to use a water bottle so you can keep track.

5.   Don’t go hungry and don’t save up calories. If you skip meals to save up calories for the company Christmas party or any holiday event, this can be a recipe for disaster. Any alcohol you might consume will go right to your head which impacts your judgement. And if you are starving, it’s nearly impossible to deal with temptation. Hello sweets, here I come! A better plan is to have a balanced snack with healthy protein, fat and fiber like whole grain crackers and almond butter an hour or so before the party. This way you are the one in control not your low blood sugar.

6.  Think about how you can modify your traditional holiday recipes to make your dishes healthy but still delicious. I did this for my pecan pie recipe which I have had for almost 50 years. Yup! It had more than a one and a half cups of sugar in the form of dark corn syrup, brown sugar, and dark molasses. I kept the 2 tablespoons of molasses because it is a good source of trace minerals, replaced the other sugar with ½ cup raw local honey and increased the pecans from ⅔ cup to 2 cups. The pie got rave reviews at the Thanksgiving table!

You don’t need to change everything if you are trying to eat healthier this season. Just be mindful of the choices you are making and watch the portion size. You can make it to January 1 without gaining weight and feel great in your body ready for a brand-new year.


Ruth Clark, author of the best-selling book “Cool the Fire: Curb Inflammation and Balance Hormones,” is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a master’s in Public Health and over 35 years of experience.  She lives in Sharon and her practice is 100% virtual.  Ruth specializes in mid-life and older women who are struggling with weight, mood and fatigue to regain their energy and vitality. You can reach her at


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